New VegNET Regional Development Officer for the Wide Bay-Burnett
The success of the second iteration of the VegNET project has put in place a solid footing to launch the next stage of vegetable industry extension, with VegNET 3.0 set to address key concerns and potential improvements for growers. VegNET – Wide Bay-Burnett Regional Development Officer Andrew Halpin provides an update on project activities, as well as a reflection on the 2021 season.
Wet finish to 2021
Like large areas of south-east Queensland, Wide Bay-Burnett experienced significant falls throughout November and December. These were welcome as it had been a dry year for the drought declared region.
It also came with increases to the region’s water allocations, giving more certainty to growers. Growers in the Burnett sub-scheme had their allocations boosted from 22 per cent to 100 per cent as Paradise Dam reached capacity during this period.
Some harvesting of crops was affected, with many growers unable to access their paddocks for extended periods of time. This led to crops being unable to be harvested as well as waterlogged affected produce, with reports of up to $20 million dollars in crop loss throughout the region with melon growers being some of the hardest hit.
Paradise Dam announcement
After prolonged efforts from Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers (BVFG) and other stakeholders, the Queensland Government made an announcement on Christmas Eve that it will return Paradise Dam to its original height of 37 metres by undertaking significant dam safety improvement works.
While the design and procurement phase will take up much of 2022-2023, it is hoped major works will commence in 2024. This is welcome news for the region’s growers, who experienced the dam’s capacity being reduced to 57 per cent in late 2019. This was after the dam wall was lowered 5.8 metres due to safety concerns.
Value-adding facilities tour
With a focus on reducing organic farm waste, BFVG has planned a bus tour for early 2022 that will incorporate a visit to several value-add facilities as well as the Brisbane Markets.
Attendees will visit Freeze Dry Industries at Yandina on the Sunshine Coast and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Pilot Food Plant in Coopers Plains, Brisbane.
The tour aims to highlight alternative options in the value-add space for our region’s growers, as well as establishing new relationships between growers and processors.
It is hoped that this trip will help to facilitate emerging enterprises between industry stakeholders to deliver increased sales of produce out the farmgate.
These types of facilities have the ability to turn a once imperfect, unsalable product into a high-value niche product that consumers are willing to purchase at a premium price. It is also a great way to help Australians to consume their two fruit and five vegetable servings each day.
Post-harvest loss (PHL) is a significant factor in affecting growers across all regions. Central Queensland University has partnered with BFVG and VegNET to conduct a survey to assist with its research into PHL.
The survey will investigate factors contributing to PHL. It is set to target vegetable growers and the wider supply chain including transport, processors, wholesalers and retailers.
This research aims to determine how collaboration between stakeholders can help reduce PHL. It is hoped that findings from this survey will provide Queensland’s vegetable industry with strategic recommendations to develop coordination along the supply chain.
Other VegNET activities
Andrew Halpin attended his first conference as Wide Bay-Burnett RDO when he travelled to Melbourne to attend the APEN Conference in early February.
Andrew’s visit coincided with a visit to the AUSVEG office, where he met with VegNET National Coordinator Sam Turner and the other VegNET RDOs. Part of this visit involved training to assist Andrew in delivering the best outcomes for the Wide Bay-Burnett region.
Find out more
Please contact Andrew Halpin on 0407 366 797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VegNET 3.0 is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.
Project Number: VG21000
Cover image: There was water security relief following the December 2021 announcement by the Queensland Government to return Paradise Dam to its original height. Pictured is Paradise Dam as it is currently, with its spillway wall lowered by 5.8 metres.